The fiasco of the faked photograph is a very bad look for the Royal Family at a very difficult time, writes the EADT's Royal expert Michael Cole.

What was she thinking, imagining she could fool experts whose profession is scrutinising hundreds of photographs every day, to judge whether they are authentic, and  worthy of publication, or fraudulent images for immediate deletion?

East Anglian Daily Times: The edited photo was a grave error says MichaelThe edited photo was a grave error says Michael This mini-scandal is a royal first: an allegation that an official photograph is a fake has never been made before. Kensington Palace must now come up with a full and plausible explanation of how this cack-handed attempt at media manipulation came about.

Otherwise, there is a danger of permanent damage to the credibility of the royal family.

It is that serious. At a time when artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to present a false picture of famous people and important events, being scrupulously honest and straightforward in public communication is essential.

Nothing else will do.

Lie once and you won’t be believed when you tell the truth. Any hint of trickery undermines the message. Trust once lost is very difficult to regain.  

I was shocked when America’s Associated Press and London-based Reuters issued a “kill notice” on the Mother’s Day photograph released by the Press Office at Kensington Palace, showing the Princess of Wales and her three children, laughing and happy, an image that it said was taken by Prince William, the Prince of Wales, at their home, Adelaide Cottage, in Windsor Great Park, last week.

AP and Reuters are the world’s two most prestigious news agencies; I can say that because I once worked for their biggest rival, UPI. That they should withdraw the photo and warn their clients not to use it, because it had been manipulated at “source” (by Kensington Palace), is a highly damaging indictment.

The problem, said A.P., was that the hand, wrist and cardigan sleeve of Princess Charlotte, 8, had been altered after the picture was taken  --  “photo-shopped” in the jargon of the trade. A minor matter? Not so, A.P.’s top person in Britain told me:

“For us, it does not matter what the manipulation is, only that it happened”.

Quite right. Agencies have to be constantly on their guard against distributing false images, in particular from places like Gaza and Ukraine where warring factions pump out propaganda photographs making the points that they wish the world to see.

Windsor is a world away from a battle front but the principle is the same.

Photographic specialists approach their work with forensic skills because they have to be able to spot fakes, as the Princess of Wales now knows if she didn’t before.

To think she could doctor such a happy image was well beyond foolish. It was counter- productive and in the extreme.

For an object lesson in turning success into failure, this episode is hard to beat.

The warm welcome that was at first given by the public to the first official picture of Kate, Princess of Wales, since what was clearly major abdominal surgery on 17 January, has now become doubt in the public’s mind: 

If we can’t trust the photograph, can we trust what we are being told about the health of the Princess?

With so much rumour circulating  --  most of it cruel, unkind and frankly ridiculous   --   candour from Kensington Palace and the Prince and Princess of Wales is now not just desirable, it is a must.

If we cannot fully believe an innocent Mother’s Day photograph, what’s next? How long before we discover that the Crown Jewels are only paste and pinchbeck?

If truth is compromised, credibility goes with it. Big mistake, Kate. Sorry to have to say so when you are unwell but this was not the way to do things.